When cord-cutting is better than cable

Canceling your cable subscription can require sacrifices, but sometimes the cord-cutting viewing experience is actually better than cable.

Amazon Instant video streaming on the PS3.
Amazon Instant is one of the best ways for cable-cutters to catch up on TV shows. Matthew Moskovciak/CNET

When people ask me if they should "cut the cord" and cancel their cable subscription, I tend to focus on negatives. You're going to miss a lot of sports, reality TV, and live TV events -- even if you get free, over-the-air TV using an antenna.

That's all true, but it's easy to forget that sometimes the cord-cutting experience is just flat-out better than having cable. I was reminded of this after reading a quote by former NBC executive Jeff Gaspin at the end of Bill Carter's recent story about declining TV ratings in The New York Times:

Mr. Gaspin said that this year he and his 13-year-old son decided to try out the AMC series "The Walking Dead." Hooked by the first two episodes, they set aside an hour at 9 each night to watch the first two years, hour by hour, which Mr. Gaspin had collected through every means available -- some episodes from Netflix, some from iTunes, some recorded on the family DVR.

"We learned a new behavior," Mr. Gaspin said. Finally they caught up to this season's finale.

"We watched that live," he said. "It was not nearly as good. The commercials broke the tension. We had watched the other episodes with blankets over our heads. I hate to say this to the AMC executives and everybody else in the business, but I will never watch 'Walking Dead' live again."

That's exactly the same experience I've had as a cord-cutter. The 100 percent commercial-free experience (which you get on Netflix, Amazon Instant, and iTunes) particularly lends itself to high-quality cable shows like "Mad Men," which I can't imagine watching with commercial breaks. Sure, I'll end up spending around $37 to watch the series via Amazon Instant in HD over its two-and-a-half-month run, but it's well worth it, considering I'm still saving on cable and getting a better experience. Not to mention the fact that I own the shows and can rewatch them whenever I'd like.

And while cable subscribers can cut commercials out by watching shows recorded on your DVR (which I do for over-the-air TV shows that I record on my TiVo), in my experience it's undeniably better to watch without the interruption of having to fire through commercials every 10 minutes or so.

Cable-cutting is still too much of a hassle for most people (especially if Hulu starts requiring a cable subscription), but for those willing to take the plunge there are some unexpected benefits.

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